The jury is still out on whether electronic cigarettes are less harmful for humans than regular cigarettes, but they are a health hazard for pets. E-cigarettes are designed to resemble traditional cigarettes. The battery-operated devices atomize liquid that contains nicotine, turning it into a vapor that can be inhaled.
“We have handled cases for dogs and cats poisoned by eating traditional cigarettes or tobacco products containing nicotine for many years,” says Ahna Brutlag, DVM, DABT, DABVT and associate director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline. “As the use of e-cigarettes has become more widespread, our call volume for cases involving them has increased considerably.”
In addition to the scent being alluring to dogs, Brutlag, explains that the issue is the amount of nicotine in each cartridge.
It measures between 6 mg and 24 mg. “Each cartridge contains the nicotine equivalent of one to two traditional cigarettes,” she says. “Many people don’t stop at two, so nicotine poisoning in pets has a rapid onset of symptoms — generally within fifteen to sixty minutes following ingestion.
- elevations in heart rate and respiration rate
- cardiac arrest
When vomiting occurs, veterinary evaluation after ingestion is typically recommended so that the heart rate, blood pressure and neurological status can be monitored. Treatments including additional decontamination, IV fluids and medications to slow the heart rate, decrease the blood pressure or stop tremors may be needed.
Cats are especially susceptible to health hazards from e-cigarettes.
Propylene Glycol, one of the primary ingredients in the e-cig’s vapor, can lead to “Heinz body,” where the red blood cells become damaged. Cats can ingest this substance by licking or chewing on the device.
What does propylene glycol do?
Large doses of propylene glycol can trigger a blood disease known as “Heinz body” anemia in cats. Heinz body damages red blood cells. Typically cats contract Heinz body from medications or from eating onions (Dogs can get Heinz body by eating onions as well).
Due to its toxicity to cats, it was declared unsafe for cat food in 1996 and removed as a cat food additive.
- discolored skin
- loss of appetite
- pale lips and gums
- reddish-brown urine